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COLLECTION Identifier: MC 960: Vt-203

Papers of June Brenner Judson, 1923-2011


Biographical and personal papers, correspondence, theatrical activities, writings, photographs and other papers of actress, director, and playwright June Brenner Judson.


  • 1923-2011

Language of Materials

Materials in English.

Access Restrictions:

Access. Collection is open for research. An appointment is necessary to use any audiovisual material.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright. Copyright in the papers created by June Brenner Judson is held by the President and Fellows of Harvard College for the Schlesinger Library. Copyright in other papers in the collection may be held by their authors, or the authors' heirs or assigns.

Copying. Papers may be copied in accordance with the library's usual procedures.


7.3 linear feet ((17 + ½ file boxes) plus 1 folio folder, 2 folio+ folders, 1 oversize folder, 1 supersize folder, 16 photograph folders, 1 folio photograph folder, 1 oversize photograph folder, 1 videotape)

The papers of June Brenner Judson document the personal life, theatrical career, and family history of June Brenner Judson. Included are biographical scrapbooks documenting Judson's early life, her accomplishments, education, and family genealogy. The collection also includes correspondence among family members, and letters to Judson from personal friends and individuals involved in the theatre. The bulk consists of Judson's professional theatrical activities, including plays written by her, promotional material related to various performances, directorial work, and photographs. Writings, which include drafts of book chapters, poetry, essays on the theatre, and short stories, also provide insight into her creative process. There is some conference material, membership papers, and speeches. Family papers, consisting of correspondence, radio transcripts, legal briefs and related material, clippings, and writings offer insight into the feminist perspectives, challenges, and accomplishments of influential women in Judson's family; namely her mother, Mabel Brenner, who became a self-taught artist late in life; and Judson's great aunts, Bess Belmore, a popular radio personality during the 1940s; and Charlotte Slavitt, a criminal lawyer and published writer. There are also a few papers related to Joyce D. Waye, Judson's sister. Although the relationship to the family is unclear, the papers of Gwendolyn T. Barrows, which were recovered from a safe owned by Charlotte Slavitt, are also included. A former managing editor of the Foreign Service Journal, Barrows papers include a birth certificate, resume, financial papers, a passport and other documents related to her work for the American Red Cross, a few personal and professional letters, and photographs. Since both women worked for Foreign Service agencies and were members of Republican organizations, Barrows may have given the papers to Slavitt for safekeeping during World War II while serving as a Christian Science Volunteer Wartime Worker. Papers previously organized in notebooks have been disassembled and refoldered. The archivist created folder titles, consolidated loose material, and created the arrangement for all series.

Series I, Biographical and personal,1929-2011, n.d. (#1.1-8.1, FD.1), includes awards and certificates; and biographical scrapbooks, organized by Judson, which range in date from 1929-2009.These scrapbooks include her birth certificate and related documents; social activities, class notes and essays; and The Penguin, a school newspaper. Other noteworthy items in the scrapbooks include a Wall of Tolerance, Inc. certificate signed by civil rights icon Rosa Parks (#2.1), reflecting Judson's life-long commitment to civil rights; artwork; and clippings by and about Judson's activities at the Encampment for Citizenship. This series also includes correspondence from family and friends describing overseas travel; births, weddings, and other family matters, as well as letters of congratulations, clippings, and greeting cards from Judson's international circle of friends. Some family genealogy outlining the histories of the Brooks, Brenner and Judson families, are also included. Folders are arranged alphabetically and chronologically thereunder. Folder titles were created by the archivist.

Series II, Professional activities, 1949-2009, n.d. (#8.2-14.3, OD.1, SD.1), includes papers related to Judson's influential role on various advisory boards and councils; her curriculum vita; and professional correspondence from actors and playwrights who received her guidance at Theatre In Process. There are some papers related to conferences and speaking engagements. Most of the papers in this series are related to theatrical activities, including professional membership papers, contracts, and other material associated with the Actors Equity Association, the Massachusetts Cultural Alliance, and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists and Screen Actors Guild. Judson's work for WGBH's radio-drama project, public service announcements, television commercials, and newspaper advertisements are also included. Several plays written by Judson shed light on her development as a playwright, culminating in her most notable playFreedom and Angelina, a widely acclaimed drama-forum based on the diaries of abolitionist Angelina Grimke (#9.2-9.6). There is substantial promotional material documenting Judson's stage performances and directorial work in small theatres and as a cast member in theatre companies in London, England, Berlin, Germany, and the United States. Dating from the mid 1950s and continuing well into the 1990s, this material includes clippings, announcements, flyers and invitations; press releases; and photographs. Other papers in this series highlight her contributions as an educator, responsible for teaching dramatic arts to young children and teens in London and in Massachusetts. Judson's published and unpublished writings, which include essays on the theatre, short stories, poetry, and draft chapters from her publication The Doctor's Daughter: a collection of writings, are also included. Folders are arranged alphabetically and chronologically thereunder. Folder titles were created by the archivist.

Series III, Family papers, 1924-2002, (#14.4-18.5, F+D.1-F+D.2), includes papers representing the personal lives and professional careers of Judson's mother, Mabel (Brooks) Brenner, and her great aunts, Bess Belmore, a popular radio personality who lectured women on personality and charm, and Charlotte Slavitt, a defense attorney during the 1920s-1930s. The papers of Mabel (Brooks) Brenner include a high school autograph book, correspondence, and a travel diary. Two publicity scrapbooks, containing biographical details, photographs of her artwork, promotional brochures and invitations, document Brenner's success as a self-taught artist. Papers related to Bess Belmore mainly consist of radio transcripts and pamphlets. The papers of Charlotte Slavitt, a graduate of Boston University School of Law are more varied. She was a member of the Republican National Committee, and assisted in the presidential campaign of Herbert Hoover. During and after World War II, Slavitt worked for several federal agencies. Her papers include a Juris Doctor degree; legal papers associated with her law practice; short stories and poetry; and pulp fiction, which she published in detective magazines under the pseudonym Charlotte Slade. Papers representing Slavitt's subsequent employment for the United States Department of Justice, and the United States Navy Purchasing Office, are also included. There are some papers related to Judson's sister Joyce D. Waye, a councilwoman from Englewood, New Jersey, who left the United States to live in Israel. Papers representing the personal life and professional career of Gwendolyn Turner Barrows are also included. Folders associated with family members are organized alphabetically by last name, and chronologically thereunder. Folder titles were created by the archivist.

Series IV. Photographs, audiovisual, 1923-1994 (#PD.1f.-PD.18, Vt-203), contains group and individual photographs of Judson's family, including her parents, her sister Joyce Waye, and her great aunt Charlotte Slavitt. Also included are informal photographs of Judson, ranging from teenage years to middle age, formal publicity photographs, and photographs from a sampling of plays in which she performed, wrote, or directed. Most of the photographs in this collection are or will be digitized and available online. A videotape of Other Boston Tea Party, written by Jack Carroll, and produced by Greg Harney based on June Judson's original play staged at Theatre in Process, is also included. The series is arranged by format and chronologically thereunder. Folder titles were created by the processor.


Actress, director, and playwright June Brenner Judson was born in 1929 to Mabel (Brooks) and Jacob Brenner. When she was two years old the family moved from her birthplace in Morristown, New Jersey, to North Easton, Massachusetts, where her father established a medical practice. She attended local elementary schools and Cushing Academy (1944-1946) in Ashburnam, Massachusetts. An active student, Judson was a member of the school's debating society, served as assistant editor of the Cushing Breeze, the school's newspaper, and as editor-in-chief of the school yearbook, The Penguin. In the fall of 1946, Judson began her undergraduate studies at Pembroke College, which is part of Brown University. A year later she attended the Encampment for Citizenship, founded by Algernon D. Black of the New York Society for Ethical Culture and Alice K. Pollitzer; both widely known for their civic leadership. The Encampment's goal of bringing together individuals from various backgrounds to learn the principles and techniques of citizenship, was a transformative experience for Judson. She went on to participate in a summer project organized by the Unitarian Service Committee, including moving to a settlement house in Detroit, becoming a block organizer for the Detroit Urban League, and supporting herself as an assembly worker at the Ford Motor accessory plant.

After resuming her studies in the fall, Judson became engaged to Arnold Judson, a graduate student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The couple married in 1949 and settled into an apartment on the Brown University Campus. Judson continued her studies, earning a bachelor of arts degree in 1950. The family then moved to Boston where Judson secured a job at the Boston Psychopathic Hospital conducting tests on pre- and post-lobotomy patients. Following the birth of their first daughter, Pamela Faith Judson in 1952, the Judson's moved to Waltham, Massachusetts, where a second daughter, Jill Elizabeth Judson, was born in 1955; both children were delivered by Judson's father, Jacob Brenner.

Judson's theatrical career began in the mid 1950s after taking an acting class with Jackson Barry at the DeCordova Museum in Lincoln, Massachusetts. She performed in the Museum's workshops and later joined its school faculty. Small local theatres and theatre companies, including Atma Theatre, the Poet's Theatre, the Lexington Theatre Guild and the Concord Players, provided Judson with further opportunities to hone her acting skills. In the early 1960s, she moved to London to study acting and stagecraft, earning a certificate of completion from the British Council Theatre. She became a member of The Questors Theatre, a semi-professional theatrical company, and won critical acclaim for her role as Mary Tyrone in Long Day's Journey into Night. During this period, she also directed several well-received plays in London, including From Swerve of Shore to Bend of Bay, performed in a collaborative London-West Berlin Project funded by the Ford Foundation in Berlin, Germany, and taught classes in drama and creative arts to teens at The Quiet Room in North London.

After returning to the United States in the late 1960s, Judson's work with local and regional theaters continued to expand, and she performed at colleges, historical societies, community centers, and other public venues. In addition to joining WGBH-Radio's innovative radio drama repertory company, she made several public service announcements, and appeared in newspaper advertisements. At the DeCordova Museum she formed Troupe, a teenage drama workshop, taught improvisational drama and the arts to teens in the North End, in Concord, Massachusetts, and worked for Follow-Through, a federally funded pilot project organized to help preschool children in the Head Start Program transition to public school. At The School We Have, a therapeutic community, Judson served as director of the drama program for teens and young adults aged 14-27. Judson later organized workshops in higher educational settings, including at Lesley College, Northeastern University, and Wheelock College.

A critical turning point in her career occurred in 1973, following a trip with her husband to Iran, West and East Africa, and Israel. Diagnosed with lymph cancer, Judson was given a year to live, but her condition improved after several years of rigorous chemotherapy treatments at Boston's Beth Israel Hospital. While convalescing, she conducted extensive research on the writings of Angelina Grimke, a 19th century abolitionist, feminist, and educator who inspired Judson write one of her most acclaimed plays, Freedom and Angelina. Over the next few years, Judson received two grants from the Massachusetts Foundation for the Humanities and Public Policy that enabled her to write, direct, and produce the play in New York City and twenty-five community venues in eastern Massachusetts, including libraries and towns where Angela Grimke spoke during the 19th century. Described as a drama forum, the play included post-performance discussions on racism and feminism.

In 1979, Judson began working with the Peoples Theater in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Founded in 1964 by a multi-racial group of actors committed to the Civil Rights movement, the Peoples Theatre introduced innovative performances, including staged readings and plays, comedies, and classic drama. A year later she was appointed executive director of the People's Theatre and built a solid reputation for her acting and directing talents. Judson formed Theatre in Process as a workshop component of the People's Theatre in order to introduce the plays of new and emerging playwrights. Although financial problems and cutbacks in funding for the arts contributed to the closure of the People's Theatre in 1982, Theatre In Process continued its work at several local venues before establishing their own headquarters.

Despite several bouts of illness, including a rare form of leukemia, theater life remained Judson's foremost concern. During her long and successful career, she served on numerous advisory boards and councils committed to the arts, including the Governor's Council on the Arts and Humanities. She also helped renew interest in small theaters in the Boston area; many of which are now defunct. In 2003 Judson began assembling an edited volume of letters, which she, her sister Joyce, and mother Mabel exchanged over the years. The completed volume was published as Tales from the Doctor's Daughter: A Collection of Writingsin 2005. June Brenner Judson died on October 16, 2010.


The collection is arranged in four series:

  1. Series I. Biographical and personal, 1929-2011, n.d. (#1.1-8.1, FD.1)
  2. Series II. Professional activities, 1949-2009, n.d. (#8.2-14.3, OD.1, SD.1)
  3. Series III. Family papers, 1924-2002, (#14.4-18.5, F+D.1-F+D.2)
  4. Series IV. Photographs, 1923-1994, (#PD.1f.-PD.18, Vt-203)

Physical Location

Collection stored off site: researchers must request access 36 hours before use.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Accession numbers: 2005-M19, 2007-M170, 2011-M188, 2011-M226

These papers of June Brenner Judson were given to Schlesinger Library between March 2005 and December 2011 by June Brenner Judson.

Related material

There is related material at Houghton Library; see People's Theatre Records, 1964-1982 (MS Thr 443).

Processing Information

Processed: February 2018

By: Emilyn L. Brown, with assistance from Ashley Thomas.

The Schlesinger Library attempts to provide a basic level of preservation and access for all collections, and does more extensive processing of higher priority collections as time and resources permit.  Finding aids may be updated periodically to account for new acquisitions to the collection and/or revisions in arrangement and description.

General processing procedures in place at the Library include the following:  books (when not heavily annotated) by and about the collection's creator and on subjects which fall within the Library's collecting area are removed and cataloged separately with information about their provenance; other books and serials are not retained.  Other material not normally retained include:  clippings that are not by or about the collection's creator; research files; financial documents such as checkbooks, cancelled checks, bank statements, etc. (when there is financial documentation at a higher level); invoices, receipts, orders, airline tickets, etc.; and envelopes (when they do not contain additional information).

When samples of weeded documents are retained, it is indicated in the finding aid.

Judson, June Brenner, 1929-. Papers of June Brenner Judson, 1923-2011: A Finding Aid
Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America
Language of description
Processing of this collection was made possible by the Archival Processing Fund, the Carl and Lily Pforzheimer Fund, and the Class of 1950 Fund

Repository Details

Part of the Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute Repository

The preeminent research library on the history of women in the United States, the Schlesinger Library documents women's lives from the past and present for the future. In addition to its traditional strengths in the history of feminisms, women’s health, and women’s activism, the Schlesinger collections document the intersectional workings of race and ethnicity, gender, sexuality, and class in American history.

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